April 25, 2017

Connect the Dots on Wildfires

Wildfires are becoming more severe and widespread. Some are saying that there is no longer a wildfire season because wildfires occur year-round. Last year was one of the worst for wildfires in the past 50 years and this year is shaping up to be even worse. The reasons: higher than normal temperatures, severe drought, and an unprecedented tree die-off.

An argument could be made that any of these reasons are related to climate change, but most of the reporting on the increased wildfires does not make this connection. I understand that journalistic best practices prevent journalists from making such connections without strong supporting evidence -- a smoking gun.

But, in the case of wildfires, there is a pretty clear smoking gun -- the pine bark beetle. Stay with me. Many reputable news sources have reported the increase in the pine bark beetle in recent years; and that the increase is due, in large part, to climate change (see "Bark beetles, aided by climate change, are devastating U.S. pine forests" http://wpo.st/u71i1) The trees killed by the pine bark beetle are becoming fuel for the more severe wildfires we are seeing today.

Journalists: I beg of you, Please connect the dots!